Twitter Quote of the Day: 29 Jan 2009

@gnat: a city is a schematic for a computer of citizens. library=memory. industry=cpu. sewage=waste heat. traffic lights=clock ticks. discuss.

  • Nothing useful comes from that analogy except a reminder to take less drugs next time.


    p.s.: So I guess people are electrons?

  • I guess some context would help. I am fascinated by Julian Bleecker’s Drift Deck, which gives you a completely different view of a city. I’d just come out of a meeting where “digital cities”, urban planning meets sensor networks, were a hot topic. I was looking around at an intersection and trying to consciously see the city around me in a different way. As I waited for the lights to change so I could cross, I thought of the roads and maps, and flashed on circuit layouts, PCB diagrams, etc. I immediately extended the analogy to 140 characters, tweeted it, and started driving home thinking about the value of analogies.

    The replies I got show that everyone else thought the same thing you did: doesn’t give us any insight. I couldn’t make it work either, but I think that it does us good to explore the world in metaphors: think of a city as a circuit and you start to ask “what does the circuit do? what are the electrons? what’s hysteresis for a city?” and then you put down the doobie and look at the world around you in a whole new way.

    jtauber @gnat Pied-à-terre=L2 cache?
    Devilman676 @gnat Never thought about like that but I think u r correct. Govt would b left over files from an uninstall of a program taking up space.
    svs @gnat interesting idea, I’d say industry=psu; supplying the raw material(power) to function. Is there a “cpu” in a city? Local government?
    sigurdmagnusson @gnat sounds like a contemporary adaption of Emile Durkheim from my days doing sociology (Society being like an organism).
    precipice @gnat bus=bus
    NZRob @gnat suburbs=hard drive (only come into the city to work) council/building waste managment=cooling subsystem
    yishaym @gnat “a city is a schematic for a computer of citizens.”, ok, so where’s the code?
    thomasglover @gnat local council=waste heat.
    benjaminblack @gnat the premise is mostly crap, but here you go
    svs @gnat @NZRob I like the idea from @danjite: CPU is distributed through the citizens, making decisions, driving the economy
    juhasaarinen @gnat Illustrate a city in an LDAP schema?

  • Scott

    I remember the first time I saw Kooyanisquatsi.

  • What caught my eye is that a few years back I spent extensive time on cross country motorcycle trips. I noted an almost invariable correlation – successful urban areas of small to medium size had timed traffic light systems. The failed entities did not. Cart before the horse, or symptomatic of leadership mindset?

  • Apparently brevity is not the soul of wit, nor of insight. And the context just makes it worse.

    This is 140 characters of navel-gazing. Try haiku next time.

  • gnat:

    You were “consciously trying to see the city” — differently.

    Well, there’s a built environment there. There’s lots of people in different roles. There are lots of activities going on day to day. There’s an externality context — the built environment, people, roles, and activities outside the borders. Within and without there’s a lot of relevant discourse (subset of “roles”) from the very formal, like laws, to the very economic, like news propogation, to the very “social” like what strangers say to one another in a bar.

    If you want a clear (as it gets) “big picture” you have to look very carefully at many, many examples of each of those tangible things from which, through their repetition / replication across time / space you get “emergent” things and a useful analytics about their relation to the mundane.

    Basically, you have to meet 10,000 people and 10,000 buildings and 10,000 “things people regularly do” and think each one through. What is the history of that one? How common are one’s “like that”? What characterizes what it will do over time going forward?

    Get a feel for it, one small step at a time.

    It’s a (in popular terminology, with a “pseudo-” prefix implied) fractal, not a circuit.

    Industrialists towards the end of the 19th century and in the early 20th century saw, through arrogance and shortcutting of reason, much more of a “circuit”. The built environment we have today reflects this, littered as it is with the ruins of failed, large-scale, social-engineering “experiments” based on (too) simple-minded thinking. The same line of over-simplified, arrogant thinking gave us European Fascism and WWII and the Soviet Union and the CP in China and…

    And a lot of the problems the states have these days – the social resistance, the population management problems, the intractability of the economy, etc. — these problems were created by nature’s resistance to that kind of Industrialist oversimplified falsely mechanistic way of analyzing society. And, indeed, Fascism is still one of the main threats the cities and the people face, although it has shifted its tactics a bit.

    The right answer to something like “Devilman676 @gnat Never thought about like that but I think u r correct. Govt would b left over files from an uninstall of a program taking up space.” is more like: “Uh, ok, what exactly does that mean? What does this analogy contribute to understanding as opposed to (bad) joke telling?”

    “Sensor networks” are mainly a disaster, btw. There’s a lot of hype around them and your Twitter is indeed a nice reflection of how you might have felt coming out of such a meeting.

    The current corporate fascination with them is a struggle by some to find new “easy” product opportunities to sell and by others to further expand and centralize ubiquitous surveillance. It’s Fascism.

    The reason that big capitalists / industrialists and their minions of cheerleaders dig this stuff so much is because the resulting surveillance and centralization of information helps to centralize intervention. In Cybernetic terms the aim is to enrich the “input” half of feedback cycles with an ownable control logic for the private enrichment of a few.

    That is why all of the groups of powerful (governmental, “intel community”, military, big money capitalists, etc.) can get behind the idea. Each has a stake in some part of currently dominant feedback-cycles of surveillance-and-control and they want to protect and improve their investment. The math/cs grad-student gets hyped about sensor nets because he can get 10 papers out of it, easy. The deep-cover-NSA-guy-posing-as-CEO gets hyped about it because its an easy sell for enhancing surveillance databases. Along the lines of the existing feedback cycles the various problematic powerful types recognize their self-interest in something like sensor-nets and then they collaborate coming up with some “neutral” language and hegemony for pimping the idea more broadly. Some do this innocently, others not.


  • gse

    Can I vote against including “twitter quotes” in the RSS feed?

  • What Thomas Lord said
    There’s nothing more I can add
    He has said it all

  • 575 ACK

    Thanks, -t